FBCR Staff

Senior Pastor Candidate in process

What is your favorite pastime?

My favorite pastime is any activity that involves food, music, or being outside. Specially, though, I love a good walk in the woods.


If you could have any super power, what would you choose?

If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to fly, because I hate traffic and love adventure.

Benjamin Smith,
Associate Pastor

Benjamin was called to be the Associate Pastor in a Special Meeting of the Congregation on July 18, 2021.

Benjamin Smith received his M.Div from Wake Forest University School of Divinity this summer and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. He has served in congregations from Austin to Atlanta and has a heart for the church and its people. He is currently a candidate for ordination with the Alliance of Baptists and is passionate about forming bonds with all age groups. In his free time you can find him biking, hiking, playing piano, and spending time with friends and family. He is grateful for the chance to be a part of FBC’s journey and is ready to walk with each of you on this road ahead. (He also needs someone to show him what a Garbage Plate is and is currently accepting offers!)

What is your favorite pastime?

I really enjoy cooking, especially soups, so my favorite pastime is to explore new recipes to try, modify, and perfect. (Well, at least to my taste!)

If you could have any super power, what would you choose?

That is tough to choose. At first thought, about five really cool ones come to mind and I am not sure I want to be picky. At the top of my list, it is between teleportation and cloning – both for the same reason – more time!  

Janet Richardson,
Minister of Communication and Operations

Janet Richardson joined the FBCR staff in 1997 as Director of Children’s Ministries. Known as our “behind-the-scenes wonder,” her job and title have expanded greatly through the years. In her current position she oversees daily tasks of the office and custodial staff, serves as liaison to the Board of Trustees and Fellowship Committees, is our primary director of communications, and assists the pastors and lay leadership with various programs. Yes, she does all that! It wouldn’t be possible aside from her undying commitment and ceaseless hard work.

While obtaining B.S. degrees in Marketing and Business Management in 1989 from Franklin University in Ohio, Janet worked in Student Activities, compiling  newsletters and planning graduations. Prior to that she spent eight years at Honeywell Inc. in the office, inside sales, and ultimately outside sales when she created a customer training program which inspired a passion for teaching leading her back to college. The first night of her first class, she met and ultimately married her husband, Doug, who in 1989 was hired by Star Headlight Lantern, Co., Inc., and is now their VP of Sales which brought them to the Rochester, New York area. Janet did graphics layout at the Penny Saver until the birth of their first of three sons. While her boys were growing, she operated a licensed NYS home daycare and for continued in graphic design as President/Owner of Rich Graphics, Inc. before dedicating her work life to the church.

Janet’s varied abilities, experience, including being able to multi-task and problem solve, along with her willingness to continually learn new skills, make her FBCR’s go-to on any number of issues? Have a question about FBCR? If Janet doesn’t know the answer, she’ll know who does. You can email her at

David Labman, Director of Music

David Labman has been the Director of Music at First Baptist Church of Rochester since 2002. He directs the adult, children’s, and handbell choir. He also hires local musicians to participate in special services, including FBC’s three “Jazz ’n Jeans” services. David supervises our music staff—organist/choral accompanist and four section leaders. He also directs an annual choral cantata and children’s Christmas pageant. In 2018, David was honored to be commissioned by FBC to compose a choral anthem in celebration of its 200th anniversary. During recent months, his duties expanded to include video recording, editing, and virtual choir production. His training and background as a pianist in classical, jazz, and pop music allow him to provide a widely varied worship experience.

David’s career as a professional musician began immediately after high school in 1975. He performed as a full-time musician through 1992 in the greater Philadelphia area. David directed and performed in several small ensembles, playing piano & keyboards, singing lead & background vocals, and writing arrangements. He also began composing and recording his own works. Moving to Rochester with his wife, Colleen, David began his higher education in 1993. He completed two degrees in music education: Bachelor of Music, magna cum laude, Nazareth College of Rochester 1997; Master of Music, cum laude, Ithaca College 2000. Also during these years, David began his career in sacred music at the First Presbyterian Church of East Rochester, NY and then at the United Methodist Church of Trumansburg, NY. He also started working in musical theatre at this time. As a musical director, pianist/conductor, and keyboard/vocalist, he performed in several area theaters: GEVA, Blackfriars, JCC Centerstage, Rochester Children’s Theatre and Hangar Theatre.

While attending graduate school at Ithaca College in 1997, David began his career as a public school music teacher. He taught for 3 years at the Trumansburg Middle School in Trumansburg, NY. Then the Labman family returned to Rochester (now with two sons: Joshua and Christopher), where David started a 20-year position as a music teacher for the Victor Central Schools (2000-2020). At Victor Intermediate School, he taught general music classes and directed choruses. Labman retired from teaching in June of 2020, however, he continues his work in sacred music as well as his professional life as a pianist and composer of classical and jazz music.  He can be emailed at .

What is your favorite pastime?

My favorite pastime is R&R with family and music composition and performance.

If you could choose any superpower, what would you choose?

I would choose time travel, just for fun!

Samuel Baker, Organist

As a child, Samuel (Sam) Baker loved running up to the organ console after church to watch the organist finish the postlude, but he had to wait until his legs reached the pedals to start taking lessons. He began filling in for his teacher at church when he was eleven years old. Eventually, he received the Bachelor of Church Music (BM) from Drake University and a Master of Sacred Music (MSM) from Southern Methodist University.

In 1985, Sam was called to be the organist at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. He spent the next 30+ years as an organist/choirmaster in the DC area. When he and his husband, Jim Weaver, were ready to retire, they decided to pursue friendships with Eastman School of Music faculty members and enjoy the music and art scene in Rochester. They found a house in Pittsford and enjoyed making their new home there. Unfortunately, Jim was an early victim of the Covid pandemic and died in April of 2020.

Sam started playing the organ at FBCR for a few weeks as a summer substitute. He had not intended to take a permanent position in his retirement. However, he so enjoyed his working relationships and the new friends he was making at FBCR that he was delighted to accept the position of organist on a regular basis.

What is your favorite pastime?

My favorite past times have evolved during the years: I love large dogs and have shared my life with several; I love cooking but it’s not so much fun now that I’m cooking for one; I love to travel, but the pandemic has made that difficult if not impossible; I’ve always had an interest in architecture, especially contemporary buildings, and have traveled to many architectural sites. When we moved to Pittsford, we were fortunate to find a mid-20th century architectural gem for our home. But it is a 50-year-old house with some land, and I realize the maintenance has become an enjoyable past time.

If you could choose any superpower, what would you choose?

If I had a superpower, I would like to be able to time travel (only back in history; my kryptonite is that I can’t go into the future) and experience great moments and people from the past.

Katelyn Strader-Bennett, Administrative Assistant

Katelyn Strader-Bennett is the newest member of our office staff joining us in the fall of 2019.  She is the hub of the office greeting congregants, staff, facility users, and visitors into the church and assisting them or directing them to the appropriate people. Katelyn also is responsible for weekly worship order documents and other printed materials needed by the various ministry groups. She assists the pastor and the minister of communication and operations as needed with scheduling, communications, and strategizing.  Katelyn is very creative and has stepped right into assisting or putting together numerous printed and electronic materials for the church. She is the friendly face who greets you as you arrive to the office Tuesdays through Fridays.  You can reach Katelyn at .

Michael Palozzi, Custodian

Michael Palozzi has been our custodian since the fall of 2021 – keeping the church facility and grounds in order. Mike works mornings and assists members, staff, and guests with a cheerful smile.

Brian Dengler, Sexton

Brian Dengler joined the staff of First Baptist in 2000 as our Sexton.  His responsibilities include keeping the facility and campus secure, checking doors and other access points each evening prior to retiring.  He also assists with weekend custodial duties as is needed.  Brian assists with campus upkeep and covers for Mike when he is not available.  We are blessed with Brian’s abilities and willingness to serve.